Federal Prison Blogging


After my first court proceeding, I decided to begin keeping a blog, which I published on the Internet. I hoped to provide some insight on the legal system and my first hand experience. The intent was to continue the blog once I arrived at Federal Medical Center Devens, MA. Blog entries from FMC Devens would have made for fantastic reading. The collection of people alone all but ensured daily drama and amusement, while taking the term ‘melting pot’ to a new level. High flying Manhattan financiers. Italian Mafia. Inner city crack dealers. International drug smugglers. Former CEO’s and CFO’s. Pedophiles. Bank robbers. Rapists. Triple murderers. Environmental Protection Act violators. Probation offenders. Ex-Military. Wannabe cops. Ex-Cops. Wannabe military. Students just trying to pay their way through school and lifetime Department of Justice employees.

With little preparation I was thrown into this surreal and foreign world. While many of my day to day experiences have now been outlined in Federal Prison: A Comprehensive Survival Guide, upon first being incarcerated, I quickly realized that keeping quiet and keeping a low profile would be prudent. After two weeks at FMC Devens I sent one letter to a friend who uploaded my first and final blog post from behind bars. Reading it puts me right back in my 8′ x 6′ concrete cube I called home for 180 days. It’s difficult to imagine that while I have moved on with my life, nearly all the same characters are still there, repeating the same routine, day after day, month after month, year after year.
It’s been nearly six years since I wrote the blog post and over a year since I have read it. I have entered some comments today written in orange.

In the Belly of the Beast

I’ve been here at FMC Devens now for 15 days. I spent the first nine days in a two-man cell, dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit. I was handcuffed and led to a caged enclosure for one hour a day. Perhaps 20 x 20, this was considered “recreation”! The official reason I was give for keeping me in the cell was that they were waiting for a bed to open up in one of the dormitories. This was obviously a lie as there are a couple hundred beds currently unoccupied. At any rate, I was told nothing and nothing was explained to me as the days passed, sitting in a tiny cell, waiting. If you’ve never been locked up before, the next time you go into your bathroom, imagine staying there for a week or two. If you don’t remain calm, it’s enough to drive you crazy. (I later met inmates who had been placed in the hole for nearly a year. Needless to say, they weren’t very sympathetic to the mental strain I experienced over my brief stay).

Finally, six days ago I was led to my current home, which is a 120-man dormitory. There are two compounds at FMC Devens. One is a 150 man “camp”. There is no fence and all inmates are of the lowest security levels. A mile down the road is the main compound. Here, 1,000 men live behind triple razor wire fences. The government calls it a “Medical Center”. The sign doesn’t even say “prison”. In truth, the vast majority of inmates are sexual offenders, sent here for protection and for attempted rehabilitation. (From my observations and discussions with other inmates, there was little attempt at rehabilitation). The others, like myself, had some sort of medical issue that caused them to be placed here. But the medical care here would make many third world countries proud. (I stick to this statement to this day. They simply don’t have the budget and this is coupled with the problem that many useful medications are banned by the BOP).

So here I sit in a dorm with 120 men. The man in the bunk below me is on his 8th felony. The guy behind me is doing 25 years—something to do with child sex trafficking. Apparently you can get a good hair cut from San, who is doing 5 life sentences. And then there’s me. A guy who made false statements on a student load application and got six months. Truly I am caught in the system. I saw my Doctor here who refused to give me the prescribed medicine I take when my back gives me trouble. He said it wasn’t on the approved medications list. He also let me know that I really shouldn’t be here.

But it is unlikely that I will be transferred – too much paperwork for the government. The most difficult thing is that everyone is so nice. (The inmates, not the guards). But you know that it is very likely that they are a sick and twisted person. (There turned out to be a few decent CO’s and many decent inmates). So one has to be very weary. I have been lucky to meet a few decent people and I am thankful for that.

Anyway, while I am waiting to be assigned a job, I spend my time reading, watching TV, and trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. One thing that I have learned is that it is best to avoid calling attention to yourself in a place like this. With that in mind I have decided not to write anything else until I am no longer under their authority. In May 2007, I’ll write a complete recap of my time here and make it available online. Until then, keep in mind that you truly do not know what you have until its gone. So try to appreciate all that you have been given. Until May.

All the best,

Jonathan

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